- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. This is a tale of two Ford Falcons.
In March 1963, Les Jackson was doing what all University of Virginia students were doing poring over their books. In his case, it was the March issue of Life magazine in which a full-page ad introduced the American public to the 1963 1/2 fastback Ford Falcon Sprint.
As a student, he was a bit short of cash but long on memory. For the next 1 1/2 years, he nurtured the thought of that 1963 1/2 Ford Falcon Sprint.
He was almost out of school when he had accumulated enough cash to go shopping for a 2-year-old Falcon Sprint.
A white convertible model with a red interior that had originally come from the Holman and Moody speed shops was found for sale in Maryland. It had an optional four-speed manual transmission and had been driven 25,000 miles. Mr. Jackson bought it in 1965 and never regretted his decision.
Despite being muscular, the car retained it's cuteness, appealing to male and female, young and old. After college, the Falcon Sprint went with him from one naval facility to another. By December 1969, Mr. Jackson was about to hang up his Navy wings and go home to Arlingtonk Va. A fellow Navy pilot had orders to report to Beeville, Texas, where he would be a flight instructor. Beeville is closer to Corpus Christi than it is to San Antonio.
Mr. Jackson sold him the Falcon Sprint convertible with 116,000 miles on the odometer and almost immediately regretted his decision.
Thirty years later, a friend suggested to Mr. Jackson that he restore an old Falcon Sprint.
Mr. Jackson, wondering why he hadn't thought of the idea first, grabbed it and ran.
He knew the subject of his restoration project would have to be a 1963-and-a-half model Ford Falcon Sprint. He would prefer a hardtop model unless he could actually find his original convertible, but what would the odds be against that happening?
Digging through 30-year-old papers in the attic, he found the original registration for his Sprint, which had the vehicle identification number information. On the Internet, he located the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles on the off chance that his old car was still in the state.
Not only was the car still in Texas, it was still in Beeville, population 13,547, and the DMV showed it to be an active registration with the owner's name attached.
Mr. Jackson telephoned the owner, identified himself, and said he was looking for his old Falcon Sprint convertible.
He asked, "Do you still own the car?"
"Well, yes and no," the man on the telephone responded.
He went on to explain that he bought the car and that, along about 1986 when it had about 200,000 miles on it, rust started to devour the body. He purchased a 1963-and-a-half Falcon Sprint hardtop with no engine and moved the drivetrain from the convertible into the hardtop along with any other parts that were better than those on the hardtop.
He had not, however, notified the DMV of his activities.
In the early 1990s he sold the car to another Beeville resident, James Wilson.
By the end of the millennia the once fire-breathing Sprint drivetrain was rather toothless but still running. Mr. Wilson knew he had a relatively rare Falcon Sprint.
Mr. Jackson telephoned Mr. Wilson to inquire about the health of the Falcon and was surprised to learn it was for sale.
Pictures were sent and several more telephone calls ensued before Mr. Jackson decided to take the plunge and buy the car sight unseen.
He bought the 2,438-pound car in December 1999, and it was delivered to his home on a truck the third Saturday of January 2000.
"It's big," thought Mr. Jackson when he saw the car on its 109.5-inch wheelbase. When new it was small, he recalled.
Mr. Jackson examined the red car with the black interior and was happily reassured of Mr. Wilson's honesty the car was as he described. It was all there with the exception of the dashtop tachometer and the four-speed gear shifter.
Within 48 hours the Falcon Sprint had been dismantled down to the last fastener. Besides the rusted floor pan beneath the driver's feet and a triangular patch of rust at each of the two top corners of the rear window compliments of a bad rain-gutter design the car proved to be solid.
"One nut had to be ground off during disassembly," Mr. Jackson said with amazement. "Every other nut spun right off."
In reconstructing the car, Mr. Jackson said, "I did all the things I wanted to do to my first Falcon Sprint."
With the car in a million pieces, Mr. Jackson discovered that everything was worn out. "It must have had a quarter-million miles on the drivetrain," he explains.
The engine from his original convertible, now powering the hardtop, was a 260-cubic-inch V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor that delivered 164 horsepower. Mr. Jackson has upped the ante by boring the V-8 out to 299 cubic inches with a four-barrel carburetor generating at estimated 250 to 300 horsepower. That's enough to make the top end of the 100 mph speedometer achievable.
Mr. Jackson located and installed the dashtop Sprint 6,000 rpm tachometer with a red line of 5,000 rpm.
Below the tachometer, faired into the dashboard in a manner to defy the observer from determining if they are factory original, were housings for the oil pressure and ampere gauges.
Mr. Jackson also built the wooden steering wheel out of maple. It is mounted on the standard three-spoke steering wheel.
Records indicate that the hardtop Falcon Sprint was built in San Jose, Calif., on May 26, 1963, and went directly to Texas. As it turned out, Mr. Jackson completed the restoration of the car with his convertible's drivetrain on May 27, 2001, a mere 38 years and a day after it was built.
He estimates the restoration cost him about 1,100 hours of time, and he doesn't want to think about the dollars. When new, the 1963 1/2 Ford Falcon Sprint hardtop carried a base price of $2,320. It's worth today is measured in far more than dollars.

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